Saturday, August 4, 2012

Reverend H.D. Hough, war hero?

A tale of the Hough: In our previous posting we responded to a letter that asked about H.D. Hough. Author Rebekah Hughes is in the midst of researching a book about survivors of the World War II submarine Robalo. In her research she discovered that some information of POW names was passed on to a young U.S. sailor named H.D. Hough. Her efforts to track down H.D. Hough led her to one of our blog posts in which we discussed Reverend H. D. Hough, pastor of the First Presbyterian church on the corner of Mitchell Avenue and Fifth Street during the 1950s. I asked readers of the blog for any memories that might tip us off to whether Reverend Hough and the young seaman were one in the same. Indicators seemed to suggest they might be, as they both would have been born in the early 1920s and after all, how many H.D. Houghs could there be?

The readers responded: After placing a call for information on H.D. Hough last week I was inundated with responses from Clairtonians and former Clairtonians. Many remembered the Presbyterian Church from their high school days, for even if they were not members many attended “canteen” dances that were held after every CHS home football game.  Others had been members but had moved away but shared memories and still others remained in the area and offered suggestions.

The Reverend H.D. Hough: He was a dynamic young minister; movie star handsome, a great teller of parables, and the perfect fit for a young, growing congregation in Clairton. Rev. Hough was born near Fayette City and spent his entire career in Western Pennsylvania. He worked tirelessly, putting together a Youth Fellowship to bring the younger members into church activities, tapping several young members to take on leadership roles, sponsoring and encouraging young people to attend summer camp at Camp Crestview and older young people to attend summer activities at Grove City College. The church was more vibrant under his leadership than it ever had been or would be in the future. Perhaps his longest lasting achievement was a concept to expand the church – literally. He envisioned an addition that would be built from the church up Mitchell toward the manse, the house designated as the home for the church minister.

Working with a fury: Reverend Hough went about the fundraising with a fury. His indefatigable energy brought in tens of thousands of dollars, and with a huge donation be PICCO scion Robert Ostermeyer, the dream became a reality and the “new addition” was built. It was a fine addition with room for church offices, meeting rooms, classrooms, and in the basement was a huge multipurpose room complete with a state-of-the-art kitchen. That multipurpose room became the home of the “canteen” dances after each home football game. It also served as a meeting place for Youth Fellowship as well as weddings, funeral mercy dinners, and a myriad of other activities. The mid-to-latter 1950s were a golden age for the country, for Clairton, and for the Presbyterian Church.

The mirror has two faces: H.D. Hough had a son born in 1952 and named H.D. Hough Junior. Like any first son he was the apple of his father’s eye. He was often seen playing in the church under the watchful eye of Rev. or Mrs. Hough. But the Reverend, for all the great ideas he brought to fruition, and for all the wonderful things he did for the church and the community was just a man, and as a man he had flaws and endured a tortured life. There were rumors of inappropriate behavior and he was quickly transferred to another church. His son, HD, Junior graduated high school and attended Grove City College, and would be taken by death when barely out of his teens. Reverend Hough established an endowment fund in the name of his son that would purchase books for the Grove City College library. Rev. Hough passed away in the mid 1990s.

An H.D. Hough by any other name or rank: The young sailor who served in the U.S. Navy was a meticulous record keeper. Yeoman Second Class H.D. Hough was aboard a submarine that had several kills in the Pacific Theater of War before an enemy mine sank it. HD Hough was one of the survivors who was sent to a POW camp in the Philippines where he was secretly handed a note with names of survivors of another sunken sub, hence the interest by author Hughes. During his imprisonment, H.D. Hough was promoted to Yeoman First Class and was transferred to another POW camp in Japan.

H.D. Hough the POW: Y1c H.D. Hough was among a group of prisoners of war transferred aboard the Hokusen Maro ship. The prisoners often referred it to as the Benjo Maro (Benjo meaning toilet) due to the filthy conditions aboard the ship. The ship, also called “The Hell Ship,” left for Formosa but the POWs on board were in such bad shape that it docked in Takao Harbor, where they were put ashore before continuing on to Japan.  Conditions were so bad that 36 American POWs died in 39 days during the trip. Yeoman first class HD Hough meticulously recorded the names of every POW who did not survive. He spent the remainder of the war in POW camps and was repatriated after the war’s end.

Tracking him down: An extensive search of military records showed that Yeoman first class H.D. Hough was in fact Hubert Dwight Hough. He returned to his hometown after the war, Okaloosa, Iowa, where he lived until his death in 1995. Ironically, the Reverend H.D. Hough of Western Pennsylvania and Hubert Dwight Hough, who also went by H.D. never met but they were born within months of one another and died within months of one another.  So ends the mystery. Thanks to everybody who offered information.

 A little blogging music Maestro: “Coincidence” by Aaron Kelly.

Dr. Forgot

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